Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In Which The RAGBRAI Deed is Done

Magnolia by Warde Hall. I'm passing by on Clarence, and I paused to snap this image of spring getting underway.

Spring in Iowa—cool, a bit wet, but starting to finally look a little green.

Last week, for spring break, my wife and I went to San Francisco to visit our son and daughter-in-law. It’s a bike-oriented city, despite the impressive hills—a fair amount of bike traffic. Both Jon and Nalena often use their bikes to commute to the train station on their way to their tech jobs. Sometimes, Jon even rides his bike home from the Facebook HQ, which, I think, is a more than 20-mile journey.

One thing that impressed me about bikers in San Francisco is that way too few of them ride with lights at night. And those who do use lights generally have just one in front and one in back—unlike me. I’m lit up with helmet lights, two headlines, two taillights and spoke lights. I like redundant lights—I don’t want to be one drained battery away from going over to the dark side.

Anyway, I didn’t ride at all in San Francisco, but have been commuting by bike this week. I rode Monday and Tuesday, and also this morning, although this afternoon I rode home in a minivan with my wife due to the cool rain that was falling.

I saw some deer in Dry Creek Monday evening as I was headed home. And this week there were other spring sightings—it’s not as warm or green or flowery here as it is in California, but some early flowers are starting to show as the Iowa chill slowly goes away. This morning, on a cool, cloudy damp morning that threatened rain (which, luckily, did not fall until after I got to work), I noticed that the large Magnolia bush (or small Magnolia tree, I am not sure what to call it) by Warde Hall at Mount Mercy University was starting to bloom.

Spring! It’s almost April, I’m just registered for RAGBRAI, and I’m feeling ready for warm weather.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

In Which There Is a Biker in the Mist

Pretty in Iowa this morning. And cold. Sun coming up on C Avenue--and yes, I am riding my bike. Long underwear is not just a good idea--it's a requirement!
March 14—pi day, although I don’t get any pie. I know that’s against all the rules of RAGBRAI and bike etiquette, but the current “30-day challenge” my wife and I are on is to avoid sweets, and pie is best when it’s pretty sweet.

Anyway, snow fell Sunday and Monday here in Iowa, as the temperamental March weather lurched from warmish spring back to Arctic winter. We had a few inches of snow, although I know we’re lucky compared to what will hit the Northeast.

Anyway, this morning felt very cold as I biked to work. I regretted not having grabbed a scarf, but I was otherwise dressed well for the cold.

And it was still a pretty ride—mist rising from a bit of open water at the Rockwell-Collins pond on C Avenue was quite fetching. With bitter cold tonight, I bet that pond may be an ice rink tomorrow morning—and I will for sure grab a scarf then!

After that? March—it’s going to be spring no matter how temperamental it is. You could tell that by the snow. It finished falling Monday morning—and by Tuesday, pavement in town was clear enough for a bike ride in Cedar Rapids.

The one good thing about March snow is that it’s not very persistent.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In Which I Watch March’s Changing Sky

Wednesday afternoon, shadow of a biker on C Avenue.
March skies—they are starting to get lighter. The time change is this weekend, and suddenly it will be daylight into early evening (but dark in the morning for a time).

Nearly the same spot--nearby pond on C Avenue, but the rising Monday sun is on the other side of the sky. Interesting looking sky is foreshadowing of bands of strong storms Monday would bring.
Already March has been warm, cold, windy, sunny and rainy. Snow is coming this weekend.

Ready to head home Monday-dark clouds in west promise coming storm. Still, a pretty sky--I like that Venus is shining before the other stars briefly appear on the ride home. Glad I made it before the storm rolled in!
 It’s an exciting month for a Midwestern biker. This week, the theme has been wind. Cool winds Wednesday morning, breezier, more pleasant winds Wednesday evening.

Two views of a slightly choppy Cedar Lake at about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Monday? Monday! A pretty, cool, quiet morning. A windy, stormy night, complete with a tornado warning (yes, I was home by then, although I left campus at night due to a Monday night program).

So here you have it, many March sky images from just the first two days of bike rides this week. And I liked the way, on Tuesday, how the sun, when it was nearing 6, was so low it distorted the shadow of my bike and made me look like I was riding one of 19th century things with the giant front wheel.

Wednesday 5:45 p.m. shadow as I head home on Cedar River Trail.
Well, I battled headwinds all the way to work on Tuesday morning. Other than that, this breezy, changing month has been pretty good for biking. Still—it’s only early March. And snow is on the way.

One more shadow shot--crossing Rockwell-Collins parking lot. Not far from C Avenue where I will, in a few minutes, shoot the first image on this blog post. We've come full circle, like a bike wheel.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

In Which Bike 12 Is OK For An 11-Person Ride

MMU Bike Club reading for first ride. I'm on number 12, bike I've never been on before.
I think there were 11 of us. I kept counting early in the ride, and the count varied a bit—it’s hard to see everyone in a group going down the trail. And I’m pretty sure I was not including myself in the count, so if I counted 10 bikers in front of me, there were 11 of us on the ride.

We were missing two who should have been there, so our total ought to have been 13—but 11 is a very respectable number for an MMU Bike Club ride, especially one I almost didn’t go on due to a catastrophic mechanical failure.

My wife and I decided today to ride our bikes to the MMU campus to meet the bike club for its first 2017 ride. And we decided to also bring along a grandchild. So I put the toddler seat on Clarence, and we helmeted up and headed out.

The grandchild likes bicycle riding, but tires of it after a time. Sitting still is not something toddlers do well. However, it was such a nice day, and the grandchild could see grandmother, so the little one was still in a good riding mood as we approached the MMU campus. Our end point was Lundy Commons, so I turned onto campus by Warde Hall, peddled to the sidewalk leading to the commons, and headed that way.

 First, you swoop down a little incline. Then, you have a short hill to ascend to get there. I made a mistake by trying to shift into an easier gear as I headed up that little hill—I was peddling a bit too hard for shifting, and there was an unpleasant “chunk” from the rear. And very quickly, my grandchild and I were stopped on the bike, maybe 20 yards from where the ride would have ended.

Busted chain.

Well, as it happens, another family member was on campus anyway, so Audrey took the grandchild home using a car conveniently located at MMU. I locked up Audrey’s bike and mine, and checked out an MMU bike.

Lundy student employee checks out bike number 12 to me.

I had not ridden an MMU bike before and, to be honest, I wasn’t relishing the experience. The university owns a set of second-hand bikes that look like a motley crew. I chose one of the larger bikes, a hybrid Schwinn built in a similar style to my old hybrid bike Francis. It was number 12.

As it turned out, number 12, despite its unimpressive looks, was lighter and easier to ride than I expected. It was a 24-speed bike, 3 in the front, 8 in back, and the gears were well suited for both hill climbing and flat riding.

Bike Club member crosses bridge on Cedar River Trail.
Kudos is due to you, number 12, for being such a nice bike to ride.

Even if I am disappointed my posse couldn’t be with me, the ride, which took us to the Cedar River Trail and then north to Dairy Queen in Hiawatha, was quite pleasant. There, since my wife and I have given up sweets for 30 days (it’s not a Lent thing, we do a “30-day” challenge every month, whether it has 30 days or 28 or 31) I had a hamburger.

Treats at Dairy Queen in Hiawatha.
 We then rode back to campus. It was getting to be around 3:30 by that time. As soon as I got to campus, one of my daughters texted me that she was there with our van and bike rack, so I didn’t have to call for rescue nor wait long. We left campus and she agreed to swing by the bike shop in Marion, which was still open when we got there.

I went inside, told the bike guy my tale of woe, and he said “we’ll get you fixed up in a few minutes.” I was surprised to get service that quickly, and informed him I didn’t even bring my wallet—and he just said “I won’t charge you for this.” So he took 5 minutes to replace the blown link in the chain, and I was able to ride Clarence home. More kudos, this time to Cranky’s Uptown Bicycles.

More of my photos. All in all, I would say it was about the best biking day featuring a broken chain that anybody could have a right to expect.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In Which We Have Early Spring, Followed by Snow

Biking to the gym last Sunday, I think. Or Saturday. Anyway, went over the Bowman Woods hill and used trail--which was a bit mushy, to be honest. Still, Dry Creek looks quite pretty in a sort of somber, late-February way.
March 1--snow! Glad I parked my bike inside.

March in Iowa: It rained yesterday, and so I rode in with my wife. Today, Ash Wednesday, it was damp in the morning and misty, but not too wet to ride, so I did.

And in mid-morning, I happened to glance out my window to see the lion of March was coming in with a wave of snow. For a few minutes, it looked pretty intense—but the warm ground would yield nothing, an when it cleared this afternoon, despite being windy and cold, there was no snow around anymore.

Biking was slightly a challenge due to said wind, and I almost wished for long underwear. Still, after driving yesterday, it was nice to be on the bike!

On the way home, along C Avenue, about 5:30 p.m. Clouds starting to break up, and sun peaks out.